After pulling out of their season-threatening slump, the St. Louis Blues will try to keep Washington from doing the same when they host the Capitals on Thursday.
The Blues have stabilized by winning four straight games after suffering eight consecutive regulation losses, a team record. The injury-depleted Capitals come into the game in St. Louis with just two victories in their past nine games (2-5-2).
“We got a real hungry team coming in here (Thursday),” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said after the Blues handled the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday to cap a 3-0-0 road trip. “They’re going to be desperate, so it will be a tough game, a real tough game.”
After producing just one point in his first 10 games this season, Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly has three goals and three assists in his past five contests, including a goal and an assist on Wednesday. He has been playing with wingers Josh Leivo, a recent recall from the AHL, and Brandon Saad.
“I think we fit, our roles in the game,” Leivo told Bally Sports Midwest. “A lot of working. … We’ve been finding each other down low and capitalizing on our chances, which has worked so far and we’d like to keep it going.”
Jordan Binnington has been in goal throughout the Blues’ winning streak, but Thomas Greiss (0-3-0, 3.78 goals-against average) is likely to start against the Capitals in the second of back-to-back games.
St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko is questionable for the Washington game after missing Wednesday’s game due to an undisclosed injury. Tyler Tucker made his NHL debut in Parayko’s place and finished with an even rating in 11:05 of ice time.
The Capitals have struggled while dealing with injuries to defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forwards T.J. Oshie, Connor Brown, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin.
Washington applied more offensive pressure in its latest game, a 5-2 road loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The Capitals put 43 shots on goal, including 22 in the third period.
“The last two periods were better than in the first,” said Capitals center Dylan Strome, who scored a goal. “I think we had our chances to score, but just a couple bad breaks and the puck ends up in the back of our net. With the rut we’re in right now, that’s kind of the way it’s been going.
“We’ve got to find a way to get going and start getting some wins.”
The Capitals opened the Florida game with Sonny Milano playing on the top line with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Coach Peter Laviolette shuffled his lines and tried Aliaksei Protas in the top group at even strength.
Washington is also looking to jump-start its power play, which has fallen into a 0-for-21 slump.
“Just obviously not good enough,” Strome said. “It’s our job to go out there and at least get momentum. I feel like on the first couple, we didn’t even do that. It wasn’t great (Tuesday) on the power play, same as the last couple of games.
“And now it’s on us to figure it out. Power play is a huge part of the game. They get a power-play goal tonight and we don’t, and that could have made the difference.”
–Field Level Media